Graph theory on the Atlantic


I am travelling once again this week so my post is on the short side. I am a plenary speaker at the East Coast Combinatorics Conference (or ECCC) at Mount Saint Vincent University. After that, I am co-chairing and speaking at the Graph Searching in Canada (or GRASCan) workshop at Dalhousie University.

Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax.

Where my career began

My post-PhD academic career began in the Atlantic provinces, when I held a sabbatical replacement position at Mount Alison University in 1998. In smaller universities such as Mount Allison, when a faculty member goes on sabbatical, there aren’t a host of post-docs or others in the community ready to fill in for their teaching. Hence, they often hire short-term replacements. While these aren’t tenure-track positions, they do give the benefits and experience of being a faculty member.

Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick.

In 1998, the academic job market in mathematics was arguably worse than it was now, with only a small number of tenure-track positions. Post-doctoral positions in my field were near non-existent. I hadn’t published much at that point, and I had taught a few Calculus courses at the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University. That was my ticket: the replacement positions needed good quality teaching. I ended up with two offers from Mount Allison University and Acadia University. Mount Allison offered a higher salary so I went there.

The teaching load at Mount Allison was a grueling five half-term courses, but I loved being an Assistant Professor after years as a graduate student. I met Cathy Baker at Mount Allison, and we became friends and collaborators on a number of papers. Cathy (now retired) appeared at ECCC, and it was great to reconnect. At the end of my time there, I was getting job interviews for tenure-track positions. I ended up at Laurier where I stayed for nine years before my time at Ryerson University. I am grateful for the opportunity at Mount Allison, which really solidified my early career as an academic.

Cathy Baker
With Cathy Baker at ECCC 2016.

While in New Brunswick, I frequently attended the Graphs and Games seminar at Dalhousie. I met there the trio of Richard Nowakowski, Jeannette Janssen and Jason Brown. Each has had a major impact on my career in their own way: I wrote a book with Richard on Cops and Robbers, worked on a number of papers with Jeannette and co-supervised two PhD students with her, and Jason is a frequent visitor to Ryerson. I also got to know Richard’s academic descendants, most of which went on to tenured positions in the Atlantic Provinces and beyond.

Graph searching

Largely because of Richard’s influence, there are many researchers out east who work on graph searching in some form: Cops and Robbers and its many variants, Firefighting, graph cleaning, and so on. With their support, we organized the GRASCan workshops which have been running now for the last few years.

GRASCan is an invitation-only conference. We are not snobby; we just want to keep the conference small and focused on researchers in Canada or nearby. The mornings of the conference are for talks, and the afternoons are free for collaboration and networking.

This is the first time we had GRASCan in Atlantic Canada: the first two were at Ryerson, then in Florida (Canadians are snowbirds, eh?) and then we had GRASCan’15 in Montreal.

Conference photo at GRASCan 12.

Everything comes full circle. I am happy to back east, even for a few days.

Anthony Bonato


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